The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is the Christian Right legal group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and headed up by Jay Sekulow, who served as Donald Trump‘s personal attorney during the impeachment trial.
It’s a very very conservative group. That’s my point. That’s not in doubt.
Last month the group announced it would start releasing Sesame Street-like videos for children… all about American history and government. Naturally, because I’m a masochist, I subscribed. The initial videos were forgettable. A white-washed history of George Washington. A short quiz about George Washington. Whatever.
The one they just released, however, is pure propaganda about how amazing the Electoral College is.
Just to give you a quick history lesson — information that doesn’t come up in the video — Democrats lost the presidency in 2000 and 2016, despite winning the popular vote, all because of the Electoral College. (Had the results been the other way around, no doubt Republicans would now be decrying that ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY.)
Even this year, it’s basically a given that Trump will lose the popular vote by an even larger margin than he did in 2016… but the election results remain up in the air precisely because it doesn’t matter who gets more votes. What matters is where those votes are coming from. That’s because of the Electoral College.
No wonder the ACLJ is trying to preserve and celebrate it. As more Americans recognize that the Electoral College is an obstacle to democracy, Republicans recognize that getting rid of it could doom any shot they have at winning the White House in the future.
Enter propaganda videos like this one:
When the child in the video asks why the country doesn’t just do a winner-take-all popular vote, the main character responds:
Have you seen how big California is?! That’s a lot of people and a lot of votes! And there are a few other really big states as well as a few really small ones, so a popular vote, while it sounds nice, wouldn’t really be fair to everybody!
(We also get a jingle: “Some states are big, some states are small. The electoral college makes it fair for them all.”)
But listen to what they just said! “Have you seen how big California is?” YES! That’s because a LOT OF PEOPLE LIVE THERE! Of course the people there should have more say in our government than a state like Wyoming. That’s what fairness looks like in a democracy, certainly when it comes to the only race that every American voter will have on our ballots.
On that same note, the video also says that, without the Electoral College, “states like California and Texas would obliterate the votes of states like Maine and Rhode Island, and politicians might only focus on those big states and their needs and ignore the smaller states just because they have less votes.”
But look at what’s happening now! Presidential candidates completely ignore California and New York and Illinois since they’re all reliable Democratic states. They’ve historically ignored Texas, too, since it’s reliably Republican — though that’s quickly changing, much to the horror of conservatives.
Under the current system, presidential candidates and their surrogates only visit “swing” states. The rest are irrelevant as far as election year campaigning goes.
If the popular vote mattered, sure, politicians would target the largest states first, but if the race was close, they would absolutely travel to medium and smaller ones. They would have to. They would need the votes, wherever they could get them. Every vote would count the same in the end, so there would be an incentive to visit big cities, even in smaller states.
A popular vote for president wouldn’t mean “ignoring” smaller states; if anything, it would mean going to wherever more people are at instead of just visiting the states where the political division is more balanced. (Smaller states already get disproportionate representation in the Senate. No need for them to taint the presidential race, too.) All of this is why the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would be a game-changer.
It’s insane that my vote for president in (reliably blue) Illinois is effectively meaningless and that those coming from Republicans are even less meaningful. Those votes should matter. They would in a fair system. The Electoral College is preventing us from achieving that.
But the ACLJ is already brainwashing kids into thinking the majority of voters shouldn’t get to decide who’s president. It’s a useful video for a right-wing group to post a week before a possibly contentious election is over.